We first discovered this work after it was submitted to the Earth Awards 2015. Although it was not chosen as a finalist by the jury, the editors of LensCulture were impressed and decided to publish this feature article about it. Enjoy!
Although enthralled by the enigmatic beauty and character of mounted aviary specimens, I’ve never lost sight of man’s hubris in turning these animals into replicas of themselves. There’s an inherent irony in striving to achieve a kind of immortality by killing them. Doubly ironic, however, is that I’ve also never felt more deeply the wonder and beauty of our animal kin than in my close-up encounters with these mounted birds. Still Life Aviary examines this dichotomy by attempting to capture their haunting charisma.
Specimens that have been abandoned before their completion or have fallen into disrepair are especially heartrending. Seeing their heads or wings wobbling from their wire supports, their unkempt feathers coated with arsenic powder, their brittle beaks and legs chipped or missing, I take pause. Seeing the string and pins used to help build and bind them, yet never removed, I feel as if I’m witnessing their second death.
The fate of many of these specimens remains in limbo. They are too old or tattered to be put on public display, yet federal and state law forbids the sale of any that are endangered species, even to those who might have an interest in preserving and protecting them.
Still LIfe Aviary attempts to address the ethical challenges they present, as well as their power to convey the endangerment and threat of extinction many bird species face today. Despite their tragic circumstances, these specimens still exude great personality and dignity. Rarely are life and death portrayed with such quiet force and wonder. Paying them tribute became, for me, an almost reverential mission.